I saw it and I couldn’t believe it. After all, it was a late Sunday afternoon at the exchange shed at the dump — oh, all right, the transfer station in Hampden. I’m from the old days of open burning dumps — nice that they are gone, but I can’t quite bring myself to adopt the phrase “transfer station” to describe what I do once a week with my garbage. I go to the dump, my favorite errand of the week.
But I digress.
The exchange shed is a small three-sided building equipped with a few crude shelves and an even cruder table made of sawhorses and sheets of plywood. This is where town residents leave more or less good stuff left over from yard sales, closet purging or general hoeing out. The items left there include pretty much everything that streams through a human life — toys, clothing, magazines, books, dishes, sports gear, sewing machines, computers, baby furniture, plant pots, shoes and on this particular day — AN ENTIRE BOLT OF FABRIC.
I didn’t notice the fabric at first. I was intent on leaving a bag of crafts supplies I had culled from my way-too-overstocked stash. But as I turned to leave, there it was, stuffed in a decrepit cardboard box, that bolt of fabric.
The colors dazzled me instantly and my first thought was — Oh, cool, Claude Monet on speed!
It was that kind of print, like an Impressionist painting gone hideously wrong, but in a good way. The floral print was done in vivid shades of green, yellow and red with touches of electric blue, ferocious pink and icy white.
I grabbed it with a thrill of satisfaction akin to what Lois Lane must have felt the first time Superman scooped her off her feet and took to the air.
Of course, I had no idea at the time what I might do with a bolt of vibrantly colored fabric, but that didn’t matter. I’d found it, it was mine, I’d take it home and we’d see.
It turned out to be a medium weight cotton curtain fabric, the selvage stamped with Roman numerals for 1968. It was in perfect condition, not mildewed, faded or damaged. It had a nice feel to it.
I let the fabric sit around awhile so I could look at it and think about how to use it. Not for curtains, or tablecloths or placemats or pillows — though all those ideas floated into my mind. Those wild colors were way too out there to jibe with the country ambience of my little house.
Then one day, all of a sudden, I knew exactly what the fabric would be good for — I’d make shopping bags out of it.
I already had a cloth shopping bag of the perfect size, so I used it as a rough pattern. I made one bag as a prototype to see how I’d like it — I loved it and set about making a dozen more. Nice, bright, sturdy shopping bags that will keep plastic bags from piling up in my house.
I gave several to friends, but I still have 10 that need homes. I think I am going to sell them for a small sum and donate the proceeds to a local charity. It seems like the right thing to do — after all, the fabric was a gift from the gods (or is it goddesses — or both?) of the dump. All I contributed was some thread and a bit of time.
Now do you understand why going to dump is my favorite errand of the week?
A By Hand reader wrote to add the film “Sarah Plain and Tall” to the list of films that make reference to knitting and sheep.
Another reader said that one her favorite films is Mel Brooks’ “The History of the World” which features a scene of a woman in ragged clothing clicking two knitting needles together. When someone comments that she has no yarn, she replies, “Oh, I ran out of that years ago.”